I was digging around in my newsletter archives for inspiration this week and came across a shout out to Dr. Dean Ornish I'd done back in 2009 and ironically, I had just been speaking about his work and programs to a patient yesterday, so it seemed like the right topic for a blog post today. This post is therefore dedicated to The Man - Dr. Dean Ornish.
Dr. Ornish is a pioneer in preventative medicine (from a western perspective, nudge nudge wink wink) because he has done some really groundbreaking research proving that low tech solution are some of the best to our high tech health problems. His statement in this TED talk excerpt, that Your Genes Are Not Your Fate, alludes to the fact that by changing your diet, decreasing stress and increasing exercise you can do many incredible things including:
Dr. Ornish's perspective on changing disease and increasing health has a heavy focus on stress and reducing chronic stress in particular. In this way, Chinese Medicine and Dr. Ornish's programs have an incredible synergy.
Lifestyle change including the basics of decreasing stress, increasing movement, doing meditation and Qi Gong and eating well to nourish the body have long been part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Indeed, the Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic - the first cannon of Chinese Medicine written in the 2nd century BCE by Qi (Ch'i) Po, says:
"When the mind is calm and stable, the vitality of life circulates harmoniously throughout the body. If the body is nourished and protected by this circulation of vitality, how can it possibly become ill?"
The "vitality of life" is your essence and Qi flow, and here, Qi Po is alluding to the importance of decreasing and managing stress as a preventative medicine measure.
In Chinese Medicine, stress restricts Qi and Blood flow - especially in the Heart and in the Liver - and these in turn can restrict Qi and Blood flow everywhere causing a host of problems from insomnia and headache to mania, pain and digestive disorders. Stress can literally be the root of all health evil - both physically and energetically - so getting it under control must be a top health priority.
If stress is a high factor in your life and you have heart disease concerns as well, combining Dr. Ornish's program with TCM is powerful medicine. Dr. Ornish's program will give you a roadmap to success, while Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can balance your energies to accelerate the process, give you focused scheduled time to meditate and relax during treatment, and give you a place to check in - someone (like me!) who is asking you about your progress, monitoring your blood pressure and helping you stay on track with your goals.
Dr. Ornish says that even after one month you can start to see changes if you stick to his Reversing Heart Disease program, and even people with previous heart attacks have had proven success. So if you can literally Change Your Fate through diet and exercise and avoid western medications, why not try? It might not be right for everyone, but you'll never know if you don't research it and consider the possibility.
So, a tip of the hat from me to you, Dr. Ornish. Thank you for helping the western world see that prevention really is medicine with proven results.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.